If living, working or commuting in our crowded cities is proving to be a drain on your well-being and your finances, it could be time to turn your life around.
Relocation or “reverse commuting” – travelling from an urban home to a suburban or smaller town job – are becoming increasingly attractive options for many, especially the growing number being priced out of living in Dublin.
And towns like Gorey in north Co Wexford, linked to Dublin by the M11 motorway and a stress-free 50-minute drive from the south of the capital, are drawing ever more businesses and people looking to escape the urban rush and crush.
But it’s not just about ditching the commute and quality of life. Gorey – with its fast-growing population and status as a tech hub for the greater region – is rapidly reinventing itself as a regional hub for business and innovation.
It has become a town where companies from a wide range of sectors, including IT, pharma and outsourced customer services working with a global reach can base themselves and their staff.
It stands as an object lesson and inspiration for similar sized towns across Ireland – those struggling with depopulation and the shuttering of the high street – now looking to connect, grow and thrive.
Leading companies such as Innovate (an IT solutions company rated a top-five Irish partner by both Microsoft and Cisco) have found Gorey perfectly placed to attract and keep talent. Innovate is one of the few Irish companies pioneering reverse commuting and “decommuting” – relocating permanently to start a new life close to your workplace.
Innovate is based in the high-tech M11 Business Campus close to Gorey town, which officially opened earlier this year. It’s a new kind of business campus for regional Ireland – with modern, flexible and multifunctional office space, integrated eFibre-broadband and a great location just 45 minutes via the M11 to the M50.
Beating the capital
The M11 Business Campus has high-quality office space that can match pretty much anything to be found inside the M50 and at significantly more competitive rates.
But it’s the location in a thriving town with superb amenities, affordable, high-quality new homes and the gorgeous north Wexford coastline on your doorstep that makes the Gorey area so attractive to companies and the talent they need to attract and keep.
The campus has certainly worked for Innovate. With a three-year plan to double its workforce to 80 people, chief executive Jim Hughes said their location has made attracting top talent a much easier task.
“We have young graduates who have looked at Gorey and north CoWexford and seen a place where they can have a great career and a great lifestyle,” said Hughes. “You can get a quality three-bed semi-D in Gorey for €280,000. Finish your day’s work and you can be on a great beach in ten or 20 minutes.”
In many ways, Gorey has created the blueprint for similar towns across Ireland.
“We still do 80 per cent of our business in Dublin and that’s the reality which won’t change, but we can base ourselves in Gorey,” said Hughes.
He pointed out that people commute along the main arteries across the country every day to our big cities, but developments like the M11 Business Campus offer a viable, cost effective, quality alternative.
You can radically shorten people’s commutes or attract them in to live locally, you can locate and build companies with big ambitions in regional towns like Gorey and still do business nationally and globally.
“I think the building of the M11 Business Campus and the open, entrepreneurial spirit that is really strong in Gorey shows what can be done.”
A fantastic mix
Diarmuid Devereux is the chief executive of Gorey Chamber of Commerce. A retired consultant engineer, he’s native to this part of Wexford and, as you would expect, a strong advocate for his region.
“When we talk to people about Gorey, we talk about our location. It’s hugely important,” said Devereux. “And it’s not just about being strategically placed on the eastern corridor, between Dublin, Waterford and Rosslare and an hour’s drive from Kilkenny or the Europort.
“We’re sitting right on a beautiful coastline, with great amenities around us, in the countryside, along the coast, in the town. Tourism is one of our primary businesses and we’ve every sporting organisation that you could think of.
“We have hotels, leisure facilities, restaurants and cafés that are top-class. It’s a very friendly place where there’s great community spirit. Gorey is really open and busy. It’s a place that has a great energy to it and has always welcomed people who come in.
“And that’s not a new thing. Both my parents were outsiders coming in, and today we’ve got a fantastic mix: Dublin, Waterford, Kilkenny people, people from countries around the world, they can come here, get right into the heart of the community, set up businesses and homes. We’re all for the new energy and ideas they bring with them.”
Devereux points to developments such as the M11 Business Campus and its Hatch Lab – a high-tech shared office space for start-ups – as shining examples of what towns the size of Gorey can achieve.
“The business campus and the Hatch Lab show the kind of ambition that is here and what we can offer high-tech businesses that want great connectivity and a place and location their staff will want to work in,” he said.
One recent visitor, a prospective client, likened the M11 Business Campus to a “mini-IFSC” dropped into the Wexford countryside.
A lot of the credit has to go to local businessmen and developers Tommy and Paddy Redmond.
The Redmonds have a strong portfolio between building and running two highly successful hotels, the Amber Springs and Ashdown Park both in Gorey, and the development of a number of A-rated housing projects as well as the business campus.
They believe more national and international companies across diverse sectors will now be looking to Gorey as an ideal location: close enough to Dublin to have great connectivity, far enough down the coast to offer the kind of affordability and quality of life that they (and their employees) are looking for.
Paddy Redmond said they were in advanced stages of plans for a major new development for the M11 Business Campus as they continued talks with companies looking to locate in the area.
“We would hope to be in a position shortly to make an announcement on a new, 35,000 square foot office block which we believe will be great news for Gorey and the surrounding area,” said Redmond.
“When we were planning the campus (with great support and input from Wexford County Council) we wanted to be up there, matching any kind of similar development you would find in Dublin, to attract national and international companies who would need the very best in facilities, but in a more rural setting that would offer them and their staff many advantages in terms of location and quality of life.
“Gorey has huge positives when you look at the issues we all know are affecting Dublin at the moment, with chief executives talking about the difficulties with housing and rental rates.
“We have a thriving town with great amenities, we are 50 minutes from the M50 and we have affordable housing with lots of new developments happening.
“It’s not just that we have a place like the business campus that will match anything you will find in Dublin. The quality of life that we can offer here is special too.”